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Double copy in gravity

15 May 2021

When I was younger, I understood these theories much better. Today I read them like a fascinated, but a bit distant bystander.

But it is terribly interesting. What does turning physics into math mean? When we find a mathematical shortcut that works but we don't understand - is this real? What is the relation between mathematical formulas and reality? And will we finally understand gravity some day?

It was an interesting article, but I am not sure I understood it all. I guess, I'm getting old. Or just too specialized.

Simia

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

13 May 2021

During my PhD, on the topic of ontology evaluation - figuring out what a good ontology is and what is not - I was running circles up and down trying to define what "good" means for an ontology (Benjamin Good, another researcher on that topic, had it easier, as he could call his metric "Good metric" and be done with it).

So while I was struggling with the definition in one of my academic essays, a kind anonymous reviewer (I think it was Aldo Gangemi) suggested I should read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".

When I read the title of the suggested book, I first thought the reviewer was being mean or silly and suggesting a made-up book because I was so incoherent. It took me two days to actually check whether that book existed, as I wouldn't believe it.

It existed. And it really helped me, by allowing me to set boundaries of how far I can go in my own work, and that it is OK to have limitations, and that trying to solve EVERYTHING leads to madness.

(Thanks to Brandon Harris for triggering this memory)

Simia

Keynote at Web Conference 2021

Today, I have the honor to give a keynote at the WWW Confe... sorry, the Web Conference 2021 in Ljubljana (and in the whole world). It's the 30th Web Conference!

Join Jure Leskovec, Evelyne Viegas, Marko Grobelnik, Stan Matwin and myself!

I am going to talk about how Abstract Wikipedia and Wikifunctions aims to contribute to Knowledge Equity. Register here for free:

Update: the talk can now be watched on VideoLectures:

Simia

Building a Multilingual Wikipedia

Communications of the ACM published my paper on "Building a Multilingual Wikipedia", a short description of the Wikifunctions and Abstract Wikipedia project that we are currently working on at the Wikimedia Foundation.


Simia

The name Zdenko

Today I saw that the Wikipedia article on Zdenko - my actual name - was edited, and the meaning of the name was changed from something I considered correct (slavic form of Sidonius) to something that I never heard of before (diminutive of Zdeslav), but the reference stayed intact, so I thought that'll be an easy revert. Just to do due process, I checked the given source - and funnily enough, it didn't say neither one nor the other, but gave an etymology from the slavic word zidati, to build, to create.

That lead me down a two hour rabbit hole through different sources crossing the 19th to 20th century, finding sources that claim the name is derived from the Slavic word zdenac, a well, or that Zdenko is cognate to Sidney, a Hessian source explaining that it is considered the root for the name Denje (so close to Denny!) (and saying it has nothing to do with Sidonius), and much more.

In short, if you think that etymology is messy, I tell you, anthroponymy is far worse!

Simia

Time on Mars

This is a fascinating and fun listen about the mars mission. Because a day on Mars takes 40 minutes longer than on Earth, the people working on that mission had to live on Mars time, as the Mars rovers work with solar panels. So they have watches showing Mars time. They invent new words in their language, speaking about sol instead of day, of yestersol, and they start themselves calling Martians. 11 minutes.

Simia

Katherine Maher to step down from Wikimedia Foundation

Today Katherine Maher announced that she is stepping down as the CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation in April.

Thank you for everything!

Simia

Boole and Voynich and Everest

Did you know?

George Boole - after whom the Boolean data type and Boolean logic was named - was the father of Ethel Lilian Voynich - who wrote The Gadfly.

Her husband was Wilfrid Voynich - after whom the Voynich manuscript was named.

Ethel's mother and George Boole's wife was Mary Everest Boole - a self-thought mathematician who wrote educational books about mathematics. Her life is of interest to feminists as an example of how women made careers in an academic system that did not welcome them.

Mary Everest Boole's uncle was Sir George Everest - after whom Mount Everest is named.

And her daughter Lucy Everest was the first he first woman Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry.

Geoffrey Hinton, great-great-grandson of George and Mary Everest Boole, received the Turing Award for his work on deep learning.

Simia

Abraham Taherivand to step down from Wikimedia Deutschland

Today Abraham Taherivand announced that he is stepping down as the CEO of Wikimedia Deutschland at the end of the year.

Thank you for everything!

Simia

Twenty years

On this day, twenty years ago, on January 15, 2001, I started my third Website, Nodix, and I kept it up since then (unlike my previous two Websites, which are lost to history as Internet Archive didn't capture them yet, it seems). A few years later I renamed it to Simia.

Here is the first entry: Willkommen auf der Webseite von Denny Vrandecic!

My Website never became particularly popular, although I was meticulously keeping track of how many hits I got and all of this. It was always a fun side project for which I had sometimes more and sometimes less time.

The funniest thing is that it was - and that was completely incidental - exactly the same day that another Website was started, which I, over the years, spent much more time on: Wikipedia.

Wikipedia changed my life, not only once, but many times.

It is how I met Kamara.

It is how I met a lot of other very smart people, too. It became part of my research work and my PhD thesis. It became the motivation for many of the projects I have started, be it Semantic MediaWiki, Wikidata, or Abstract Wikipedia. It is the reason for my career trajectory over the last fifteen years. It is hard to overstate how influential Wikipedia has been on my life.

It is hard to overstate how important Wikipedia has become for modern AI and for the Web of today. For smaller language communities. For many, many people looking for knowledge. And for the many people who realised that they can contribute to it too.

Thanks to the Wikipedia community, thanks to this marvellous project, and happy anniversary and many returns to Wikipedia!

Simia

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